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RAF: The Battle of Britain 1940» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Lion versus Eagle, Hugh versus Hermann rss

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Dampenon Fabien
France
Paris
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Rookies talk about Strategy, Grognards about Logistics...
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Have you ever watched the 1969 movie "Battle of Britain" with an irresistible envy (or need) to seat in a cockpit ? In fact, you’re lucky if you own (or know an owner of) the 2009 version of RAF by Decision Games, because you will be able to raze London or cut the wings of the arrogant Luftwaffe, according to your choice...

So, let's go for a (brief) review of the Two-players version but you could also play solo with each side, which makes this game so interesting.

1) Components

A large Box (perfect size to store all the components, you can even store "The Hardest Days" game from the same Designer and Publisher, World at War Magazine Issue 19, in the box), filled with colourful countersheets, two maps (but only one is used at once), 3 rule books (one for each version), a lot of cards, and some reference sheets.

Map is unmounted, colourful, pretty and functional with some useful tracks and tables. Size is large but not huge (and you don’t need more space, except for the hidden Luftwaffe display).

Counters are gorgeous. Planes are colourful with silhouettes from above (with historical designation of units, Squadron or Geschwader, and easily readable Combat and Bombing/Strafing Values) and markers are very representative of their function.

There are four types of Cards in 2-Players version : Target (which represent all possible targets of German raids), Raid Events (which can disrupt any "perfect plan" and allow to really live the raids), Day Events (which are an elegant treatment of course of time) and Strategy (only for German, some tricky stratagems). All are functional.

Rule Book is very well organized. Rules are clear, well written with clear examples and Designer’s notes. You will even find a compendium of Raid and Day Events Cards which give all precisions needed. An extended example of play of one turn could be useful but seems unnecessary. You will find an introductory scenario (one-day), 2 scenarios (respectively from 11 August and 27 August) and the Campaign Game (from 11 August to Sealion or Elimination of one of the two air forces, which ever occurs first). For the purists, you will find at last some very interesting advanced rules (which, I think, must be used), and one optional rule for Night Raids (I have never used).

Reference Sheets are well designed and, eventually, used intuitively.


2) System

Sequence of play is articulated by "Raid Days", divided in 4 phases : Daily Planning, Raid, Airfield Operations and Calendar Update, with Raid Phase being the core of the game.


During Daily Planning Phase, after drawing some Strategy Cards to help him (the more German VP, the more cards drawn), German Player draws (generally) 10 Targets Cards and "chooses" (in his hidden display) his targets of the all day. In fact, OberKommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) had some ideas (more or less useful) about conduct of this aerial campaign and Targets are ventilated in five types (Airfields, Radar Station, Ports, Industries and Cities) which are classed by priority. So, German Player must conform to these priorities (which could change during the battle). So, sometimes (often ?) German player will be frustrated but, this is an historical point... For example, at start, OKL high priorities are towards Radar Stations and Ports, so, you can’t target all Fighter Command Airfields you want, only some...
Nonetheless, German Player will have the choice of timing (each day is divided in seven 2-hours phase) and composition of the raids (number of Gruppen and ratio Bomber/Fighter). Fighters can Hunt (only Me 109), Close Escort Bomber or Strafe.
Skill of the German Player will be seen in this phase by planning "fake raids" only composed by Me 109, and by timing just after a raid lightly escorted, for example. In my last game with RAF, my audacious opponent has launched a raid of 6 Bomber Grupppen, unescorted (?!) which I haven’t intercepted...
Will you launch your first raid against a Radar Station which makes following raids easier (I you damage it of course) or will you attack this precious target at the end of the day, when you think RAF fighters will be less numerous and fierce ?

Then a die roll will decide of the day’s weather. Sunny days are praised by the Luftwaffe but clouds are RAF best’s allies...

Southeast England is divided in 3 regions and German Player must then announces where his raids will fly in the following Raid Phase.

Now, British player must take one of the difficult decisions of the game, taking off some Squadrons to patrolling (and where) or keep them on ground...


There is now a Raid Phase, one for each raid planned.

German player announces the target of the raid, and British Player rolls a die, with some modificators (the more radar station near the target, the more Gruppen in the raid and the more inland is the target will give a lot of bonus to this roll, for example). Detection is divided in two criterias, Intelligence and Warning. Sometimes, British player will know exactly the composition of the raid but, more often, he will know only the number of Gruppen, this is Intelligence. Early Warning allows British player to muster his Squadrons and often, you will regret to have kept your fighters on the ground... You don’t have to intercept a raid, but, each raid with Bombers you don’t intercept will give 1 VP to the German player...

Some difficulties of mustering the raid could bring the raiders with less Gruppen that planned (the dreaded Rendez-vous check).

It’s now time to fight. Interception is resolved in two phases, one Hunter Interception where Me 109 and RAF Fighters will dogfight. Then, in Squadron Interception, British survivors will attack Bomber Gruppen and their Close Escort Fighters. Some Events Cards could give some thrill, by removing, just before interception, some valuable planes to one (or both) player.

Surviving Bomber Gruppen will now bomb the target, inflicting some damages on Airfields, Aircraft Industries or Radar Stations.

Luftwaffe gains VP by bombing Target (from 0 to 3 VP) and by destroying RAF Squadrons (2 VP for a Heavy Loss and 1 VP for a Light Loss).

RAF gains VP by destroying German Gruppen (2 VP for a Heavy Loss and 1 VP for a Light Loss).

During Airfield Operations Phase, each player will refit his planes (based on the number of two-hours phases of rest).

At the end of each day, there is a Calendar Update Phase, to gains some replacements (of plane and, only for the RAF of pilots) and reinforcements (RAF must pay 2 or 3 VP by reinforcing Squadron). Number of replacements is based on the number of days between Raids, depending on a card drawn, with an advanced rule where German player may "press or rest" and so gives the tempo of the battle.


3) Conclusion

The full campaign will take some 6-8 hours of playing time.

Obviously, this is a "cat and mouse" game with a very important Fog of War. Don’t’ play this game if you are treated by a cardiologist...

This is game with a lot of fun but this is an HISTORICAL one. I can affirm that, if you are playing like Luftwaffe in August 1940, you will lose this war, like Luftwaffe...So, German player must be imaginative and smart and, of course, give more fighters to protect his raids than historical OKL has made.

With RAF, I have tried to contest every raid and battle Luftwaffe at parity, I have lost the game in seven days...
The next game, I have spared my pilots by accepting to let some raids bombing my beautiful country and concentrate my fighters against few raids and I have decimated the Luftwaffe in four days...

So, you can see the game is well balanced and will reward the best strategist, what else for a wargamer ?



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Jim Ransom
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"I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way." John Paul Jones
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Thanks for the well written review. I've had this game on my wishlist for a while...
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Jan Tuijp
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Volendam
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Quote:
Then a die roll will decide of the day’s weather. Sunny days are praised by the Luftwaffe but clouds are RAF best’s allies...


It's actually the other way around. Clouds hinder the RAF Observation Corps. That's why the OCV drops with heavier clouds, resulting in a lower position on the Raid Detection Track.

Nice review by the way!


 
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Dampenon Fabien
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Rookies talk about Strategy, Grognards about Logistics...
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Jan Tuijp wrote:
Quote:
Then a die roll will decide of the day’s weather. Sunny days are praised by the Luftwaffe but clouds are RAF best’s allies...


It's actually the other way around. Clouds hinder the RAF Observation Corps. That's why the OCV drops with heavier clouds, resulting in a lower position on the Raid Detection Track.

Nice review by the way!




Yes, you're right about effects of clouds on raids' detection. But, when I'm playing RAF, I always trade this for the others effects of clouds, one or two left shifts when it's bombing time and all events (often nasty for Luftwaffe) which are triggered only in presence of clouds.
 
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Jan Tuijp
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Volendam
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Ah yes, now I understand. I'm not sure I agree with you, though. The advantages you mention are advantages afterwards. Personally I like the advantage of early intelligence. That heightens your chances to an accurate response and to a possibly devastating blow to the Luftwaffe. The possible VPs you gain by clear weather may matter more than the possible VPs you loose by clouds...
 
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Dampenon Fabien
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Jan Tuijp wrote:

Ah yes, now I understand. I'm not sure I agree with you, though. The advantages you mention are advantages afterwards. Personally I like the advantage of early intelligence. That heightens your chances to an accurate response and to a possibly devastating blow to the Luftwaffe. The possible VPs you gain by clear weather may matter more than the possible VPs you loose by clouds...


I understand and I think this is one of the interest of this game, you have to think about probabilities...

Is it more interesting to have an early warning than a sufficient one because of clouds ? or to have 2/3 of Luftwaffe Me-109 leaving the raid ? But, remember that high detection roll isnt' always better because, sometimes you have preferred Intelligence than Warning, or vice versa...

Most of time, however, high detection rolls are better and I understand why you prefer sunny days but you have understood I prefer clouds and, afterwards, it rains often over England...
 
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Jan Tuijp
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Volendam
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Dampenon wrote:
I understand and I think this is one of the interest of this game, you have to think about probabilities...


I agree. RAF is about the quality of your decisions, not the quantity. When that sinks in, you really start to appreciate the game. As I said in another thread: I would like to know the opinion of a WWII expert on the simulation level of RAF. It certainly feels spot on.


 
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Steven Goodknecht
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Bradley
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RAF: The Battle of Britain 1940 » Forums » Reviews
Re: Lion versus Eagle, Hugh versus Hermann
A very good review. As this is Dampenon's third wargame review, he has been added to the wargame reviewer's Geeklist.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/127822/in-praise-of-bg...
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